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February 28, 2024
Alaska Legislature fails to override governor’s veto of  million in public school funding



Alaska House members look on during a vote to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of $87 million in education funding. (Eric Stone/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Legislature on Thursday failed to override a veto by Gov. Mike Dunleavy that erased $87 million in education funding.

Last year, as gridlock threatened a government shutdown, the House and Senate agreed to provide $175 million in one-time funding for public schools. Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed half of that total.

The House and Senate gathered in a joint session for the vote, which failed 33-26. Three quarters of the combined bodies, or 45 votes, would have been required to override the veto.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said he was disappointed.

“We obviously had hoped that we’d have the votes,” Wielechowski said shortly afterward. “Education is so critical to people all across the state, and we’ve got a constitutional obligation to fund education.”

Fourteen senators – most of the majority caucus – voted in favor of the override, though three Republicans voted against it. In the House, 21 members voted against the override, with three Democratic and independent members of the Republican-led majority caucus voting to override the veto.

The leadup to the vote was somewhat unusual. The House narrowly rejected a vote to call a joint session on Tuesday. After some members argued on the floor that the Alaska Constitution required a vote on the vetoes, Speaker Cathy Tilton agreed to call a joint session without a vote. But lawmakers did not take up any other measures vetoed by Dunleavy.

The vote comes as the debate over education funding heats up in Juneau. The House Rules Committee is set to hear public testimony on a bill that would raise per-student funding by $300, along with a number of other education reforms, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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